Pompeii: Roman City Frozen in Time
Pompeii is a city frozen in time and my husband is fascinated with all things history so it was a no-brainer for us to visit Pompeii while on the Amalfi Coast. James and I decided to do the half day trip from Amalfi and we used Viator tours because of their guaranteed low pricing and unmatched flexibility which allowed us to change our travel dates free of charge, as long as we notified them 72 hours ahead of our scheduled departure. Viator Pompeii
Traveling to Pompeii
Quick history lesson: Pompeii was a bustling Roman town destroyed by an explosive eruption of Vesuvius. Vesuvius = volcano that explosively erupted to destroy the bustling Roman town of Pompeii. A well-matched pair.
Our half day trip started off with a one and half hour transfer from Praiano to Sorrento and then on to Pompeii. We left fairly early in the morning but the bus was comfortable and we were excited to see this magical place that we had read about in all of the history books. The bus ride was an adventure in and of itself. I drifted off momentarily and I woke up to the feeling of the bus hugging the curves up the side of a very steep Mountain. A very scary winding road and a reasonably long way up. I was immediately glued to the window as the bus shimmied up the mountain side as we passed fields of lemon trees hanging from the side of mountains – and the view just kept getting better and better.
We finally arrived at Pompeii after and hour and a half bus ride and began our journey exploring Pompeii. I thought I knew all about Pompeii because of everything I read in history books, National Geographic specials, latest movie about Pompeii on HBO. You believe you have a pretty good idea of what to expect, what Pompeii looks like, and the story that led to its destruction and preservation but you have no clue because history books don’t even begin to touch the surface of the history of Pompeii.
The Story of Pompeii
The story of what happened in Pompeii, as you walk over the cobblestones that are still worn with the traces of horse-drawn carts, admire handmade intricate mosaic sidewalks, explicit murals and rough graffiti, and most of all when viewing the plaster death casts made of the victims in their final moments of life – becomes shockingly real. Our tour guide walked us through the moments in the daily life of these ancient people, who were at the same time surprisingly modern. Remains of ‘take-out’ restaurants, brothels, homes and shops all retain telling elements that let you know what went on in that very spot, simple and poignant signs of life speaking of an unfinished past. It’s kind of hard not to imagine Pompeii’s people walking around you, going about their daily business. Our guide was careful to reconstruct all of this for us, turning each ruin into a living monument.
The House of Faun
Next was The House of the Faun which was built in the 2nd century BC during the Samnite period (200 – 80 BC. Although the eruption was devastating, the layers of ash covering the abandoned town preserved artworks, like the mosaics of the House of the Faun, which would have otherwise been likely destroyed or decayed due to the passage of time.
The House of the Faun was named for the bronze statue of the dancing faun, a basin for catching rainwater; it has been moved to the center of the impluvium, as seen in the picture below.
Villa of the Mysteries
Next on our tour was the Villa of the Mysteries or Villa dei Misteri. The Villa is named for the paintings in one room of the residence. Although covered with ash the villa sustained only minor damage in the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD, and the majority of its walls, ceilings, and most particularly its frescoes survived largely undamaged.
The Villa had both very fine rooms for dining and entertaining and more functional spaces. A wine-press was discovered when the Villa was excavated and has been restored to its original location. It was not uncommon for the homes of the very wealthy to include areas for the production of wine, olive oil, or other agricultural products, especially since many elite Romans owned farmland or orchards in the immediate vicinity of their villas
The ownership of the Villa is unknown, as is the case with many private homes in the city of Pompeii. However, certain artifacts give tantalizing clues. A bronze seal found in the villa names L. Istacidius Zosimus, a freedman of the powerful Istacidii family.
Conclusion of Pompeii
Towards the end of the tour, we congregated in the ancient Forum where the half-standing columns and structures of Pompeii’s most important political and social center stand silently against the shadowy backdrop of the volcano. Pompeii’s horrific end was the most interesting aspect of this ancient Roman town but by the end of this tour it was rather Pompeii’s life, it’s daily existence that became the most captivating story.
If you are thinking of taking Viator Pompeii Half day tour don’t hesitate. Pompeii is the kind of place that sticks with you long after your trip is over. I believe this tour is an excellent way to make such an important journey as special as possible.
Have you visited Pompeii? Is Pompeii on your bucket list?